Well, after raking Joe Kelly over the coals for giving us the standard “character is dead!” cliffhanger with the previous issue, I’ve got to eat my words a bit here. Kelly actually had the cojones to kill Peter Parker (twice) in this no-brakes conclusion to Spider-Man/Deadpool‘s first arc “Isn’t it Bromantic?” Not to get ahead of myself, but I still think a much more effective use of the cliffhanger for last issue would have been to establish Peter was dead, rather than tease the possibility that he wasn’t, if only so we could have a few more panels to flesh out ideas and plot for this issue. But more on that later.
First I want to say that with the conclusion of this arc, Spider-Man/Deadpool and Vision are far and above the best titles on my pull list right now, and my pull list is probably excessive at this point. That being said, Spider-Man/Deadpool #5 has a shaky form, but manages to stick the dismount by the end of the book, teasing in ways that are leaps and bounds ahead of #4’s gimmick ending.
As someone with only a Wikipedia entry’s worth of knowledge when it comes to Deadpool, Death’s sudden appearance is notable, but perhaps the impact and implication is lost on me as a Spider-Man fan. On the other side of the coin, Mephisto’s inclusion is not only significant, but perhaps one of the most satisfying moments in Spider-Man history. I don’t want to drag out the horse corpse that is “One More Day” for another beating, but I think the biggest sin of that story was the little weight it actually had on the in-universe elements of the story. Meaning after the final BONG sound effect, “One More Day” was more or less over and never referenced again until “One Moment In Time,” which served mostly as a means to show the new retconned history that came about thanks to the events of “One More Day”.
While I understand why the Spider-Office didn’t want to harp on a critically-reviled story, I think that “One More Day” is robbed of its organic placement in the greater Amazing Spider-Man canon by never addressing Mephisto’s lingering ties to Spider-Man (and sweeping them under the rug in “One Moment in Time”), making “One More Day” feel more and more like an awkward shoe-horned in editorial mandate than an integrated tale. So to see Mephisto taunt Peter by telling him that he will “always be missing something” is cathartic to say at the very least and for me, gives “One More Day” a more definite place in Marvel history rather than the fourth-wall break it currently serves. Of course, “One Moment in Time” establishes that Mephisto is not supposed to interfere with Peter’s life ever again, so we don’t know exactly what’s going on… but my money is on editorial oversight.
But, if Mephisto’s taunting was indeed a reference to the marriage – to or use the language from “One More Day”, Peter and MJ’s happiness – then it serves as a bridge for Spider-fans to understand Deadpool’s own alienation from Death. Or at least, the feelings of angst behind it. And by having this bridge connecting the two characters, we as readers see, just as Spider-Man and Deadpool have discovered over the course of this arc, there are more similarities between the two than first glance would imply. This connection between the two characters is what gives this arc such a strong conclusion, even if the events within the final issue are a bit muddy in regards to Mysterio’s involvement in the matter – something that had to be made clear through direct exposition delivered to the reader after the events transpired. Mysterio’s inclusion wasn’t the greatest moment of finesse, but with an issue crammed to the brim with so much stuff, the occasional direct line to the reader is going to be needed in order to ship the book with twenty-two pages. Which, to return to my first point, only makes the cliffhanger from the last issue more frustrating, since an entire page in #5 is spent establishing that Peter did die. That’s real-estate that could be spent establishing Mysterio’s ability to reach out to Peter as he traveled through limbo, rather than have Deadpool deliver that line.
However, what is especially well-delivered is the build up for the next story line – and with good reason. Kelly and McGuinness are taking two issues off to get ahead of the publishing dates (or maybe, so they can play catch up, depending on how early these are sent to the printer). So in order to maintain interest the teases for the upcoming arc have to be strong and luckily, they are. Patient Zero reveals himself as the imposter Peter Parker, Mephisto is teased in the last panel to have a hand in the ordeal, Death has returned to Deadpool, and now Deadpool has paid some sort of price to her.So from here we have a few solid story lines to follow and honestly, I’m excited for every single one of them because they feel so organic to the flow of the story.
Kelly’s intertwining of the next arc’s plot hooks into the denouement of this arc works not only to establish early some of the things that will come to play later. However, without a strong sense of conclusion, or perhaps with too heavy a hand, a more intertwined ending like Spider-Man/Deadpool #5‘s can feel more like stringing the reader along (something that Dan and Mark have noted in their recent podcast about the conclusion of the “Scorpio Rising” Amazing Spider-Man arc). I don’t feel like this is the case though as we saw a solid conclusion to Deadpool’s personal character arc through the course of the five issues, culminating with his big speech about never killing again.
McGuinness continues to set each and every issue on fire, with #5 topping the incredibly high bar set by #4. From the goofy Spider cherubs following Spider-Man as he reaches for Madam Web, “The Creation of Adam” style, to the grotesque depiction of Gwen Stacy’s neck, and the agents of hell, the art on this book is fantastic. The colors, courtesy of Jason Keith, are as vibrant and rich as ever lending a vitality to each individual panel. Even if this book was written by a dog, I’d probably pick it up just so I can look at the art (though there is definitely an undeniable novelty to an issue being written by a dog). The fact that it’s a great story is the icing on this already very tasty-looking cake.
At the conclusion of “Isn’t it Bromantic?” we see that this title balances out Spider-Man and Deadpool more than the onset seemed to imply. Though still leaning a bit more on Deadpool, Spider-Man still comes through strongly, shaping the exact lens that we see Deadpool through. If Mephisto and Spider-Man rogues continue to play an important and antagonistic roll in the series, I can even see the focus of the title shifting more toward the web-slinger as he deals with his literal demons.
Spider-Man/Deadpool #5 concludes its first arc with some familiar yet surprising faces. Though some events are initially left hazy and later explained through heavy-handed exposition, this issue lives up to the quality that precedes it and leaves readers wanting more.